14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Golden Mean (Hardcover)
I read Mary Renault's Alexander books (Fire From Heaven, The Persian Boy, Funeral Games, and the less fictional The Nature of Alexander) when I was in my tweens, and they sparked a life-long love affair with Ancient Greece in general and Alexander the Great in particular. The problem with Alexander is that he is too often used as a surface for the writer (and reader) on which to project their own desires and dreams about who the great man was. We see him cast as a great human rights activist, a gay rights activist, even a women's rights activist, and whereas I have no problems understanding why this is (after all, a lot of Alexander's appeal is undoubtedly down to the way we pick up on something in him that we recognise in ourselves), it sometimes makes for very boring reading. Renault's books, though I still love them, show signs of being vehicles for her own agenda.
There's nothing wrong with that, necessarily, but I think one of the great merits of Lyon's book is that her Alexander is so delightfully imperfect. She deals with the stories we've heard so many times (Alexander taming Bucephalos, for example) in a way that made at least me feel like she was giving me the account as it "really happened" (yes, I'm sensitive of the fact that this is a complete and utter illusion). Taking on those stories, taking on Alexander himself, in the wake of Renault's books is recklessly courageous. Doing it in a first person narrative of the great Aristotle himself even more so. But it works. It works fantastically well. The prose flows easily and beautifully. She doesn't shy away from vulgarities, but they fit in well. She will casually mention same-sex lovers without the tedious dwelling on the difference between homosexuality today and "homosexuality" then. It's a fun, clever, beautiful read, and I would recommend this book to anyone with the slightest interest in the ancient world.
As someone who's read a lot of both fact and fiction on Alexander, I must say that this book is the first one on the subject that I have read in a long, long while that felt fresh and new. It adds something to the vast bulk of literature on Alexander, it doesn't just regurgitate well-known legends. Lyon's Alexander feels alive and human. A rare chance to meet the boy behind the myth.
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Initial post: 9 Mar 2016 19:58:38 GMT
An interesting take on Alexander and Bucephalos can be found in I am the Great Horse by Katherine Roberts. It is a book for teenagers, but well worth reading and as far as I can recall reasonably accurate in historical details.
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